Level Up Sofia (Ploshtad “Petko R. Slaveykov” 7b (GPS: 42.692090, 23.324900) Open 3-10pm Tue-Fri, 12pm-10pm Sat-Sun, closed Monday.
By far, my favorite place to game was Level Up Sofia. Good selection of games, open to creators and designers bringing in their own games, good selection of beers and coffees, and welcoming gamers. The best time to go would probably be the International Board Games Group Sofia on Tuesday nights — see https://www.facebook.com/sofiaboardgames for more. It’s an 8-10 minutes walking distance from the central Serdika subway station.
Martijn: The oldest and most popular board game bar in Sofia was already extensively discussed by Chris. Its new location on Slaveykov Square is much cleaner and more spacious than before. Level Up is also the only board game bar that doesn’t charge an admission fee. Instead there is a minimum consumption of 5 lv, which buys you two pints of beer (or one pint of craft beer). The bar has a medium-sized collection of mostly casual and medium-heavy games. Its owner knows everyone in the local games scene. Level Up is also home to a dedicated group of Warhammer players. The English-language international board game meetups on Tuesday are still drawing many visitors, both local and foreign. The place is a little hard to find, as you have to go into a courtyard off the main square to see it. This is the best place to go to meet international gamers to play with.
Entrance fee: none. (Mandatory minimum consumption of 5 lv.)
Martijn: The newest addition to Sofia’s board game scene is bar Abordage. Located in the hipster ‘Kvartal’ neighbourhood, it is just a short walk away from metro station Serdika. The bar has a pirate theme, and the inside somewhat resembles a pirate ship. Keeping with its theme, it is one of the rare places that sells mead, a traditional honey-based drink. Other than that, Abordage specializes in selling craft beers.
The bar’s game collection is small but interesting, containing both entry-level games and heavy hitters. Aside from games, Abordage often hosts other events, ranging from language exchanges to meetups for entrepreneurs. This is the best place to go if you want to play a game while enjoying a specialty drink.
Entrance fee: 5 lv. if you’re playing a game.
Martijn: Contrary to what its name suggests, The Castle (‘Drugyat Zamek’ in Bulgarian) is housed on the ground floor of a modern residential building. The venue is clean, spacious, and has a calm vibe, making it feel less like a bar and more like a community center. It is far away from the city centre, but easy to reach by bus as it is located next to the Tsarigradsko Mall. Drinks and snacks are very affordable here.
The Castle is owned by passionate gamers, and its large collection of games is frequently updated. It also has an active community of game designers, with game jams and playtest nights. This is the best place to go for serious gaming, or to meet up with designers.
Entrance fee: 3 lv
Martijn: Mulligan’s has been around for a long time, but only recently moved to the city center. The new location is right next to the Mall of Sofia, and easily reached on foot from the ‘Opalchenska’ metro station. Mulligan’s is the smallest of the board game bars in Sofia, and has a loyal group of regular customers. The place is cozy and serves some food.
The collection of games is medium-sized, and includes some more obscure games that you won’t find elsewhere. This is the best place to go if you want to play a game after a day of shopping in the mall. Entrance fee: 4 lv
Martijn: Chris already mentioned Karkason in his original post. Of all the board game bars in Sofia, this one is the least ‘nerdy’. The interior is painted in warm colors, and in the winter there is a working fireplace. Many people come here just for a beer, or for one of their specialty teas. That doesn’t mean that Karkason has no good games. It has a medium-sized collection of popular games, including some strategy heavyweights. The bar is divided into multiple cozy rooms with one or two tables each, so you can play your game in a semi-private environment. This is the best place to take a date if you’re both into gaming.
Entrance fee: 4 lv. if you’re playing a game.
The 3 Trolls
Martijn: The 3 Trolls is one of the oldest board game bars in Sofia. It use to have two locations in the ‘Oborishte’ neighborhood, but moved closer to the center in late 2018. The new venue is located under the ‘Lovers Bridge, between the National Palace of Culture and the Hilton Hotel (on the side of NDK).
The 3 Trolls has a large collection of games, including many heavier ones. The bar is extremely popular with Magic: The Gathering players and frequently hosts tournaments. It is also the only board game bar that is open until 2.00 a.m. during the weekend. This is the best place to go to play a long and serious game that lasts until the wee hours.
Entrance fee: 5 lv.
As game shops go, Pikko Games (ul. “Neofit Rilski” 31, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, GPS: 42.690534, 23.318098) is conveniently located in the center of town, less than 100 meters from Karkason, and a short walk from NDK station.
While you’re in Sofia, I highly recommend joining the Sofia Graffiti Tour. Beyond the fact that it’s free (tip your tour guide at the end as you like), the once-daily tours focus on the graffiti but will also give you a primer to the walkable central part of the city.
Beyond that excellent tour, Sofia also has an offering called the Sofia Alternative Tour, which is kind of like a treasure hunt for exploring the city. Whether you’re a gamer or a game designer, this self-guided tour takes you around some off-the-beaten path destinations and some non-touristy areas that only locals go to. You’ll need to solve puzzles as you go, and the second half is when you return to where you started for a debriefing. They’ll fill you in on the correct answers — let’s just say some of the puzzles required some lateral thinking, at least the version I went on — and give you a bit of closure.
Over to you
Where do you game in Sofia?